A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.
The story's theme is as valid now as it was thirty-three years ago. The theme is that the ratings business has corrupted television, because ad revenue, and therefore profit, is tied to the ratings. Programs and events then, and now, get aired if, and only if, they are likely to result in high ratings. It's all very seamy, very dishonorable, very shabby, and very relevant to today's world of ten thousand channels.
Though most of the characters in "Network" end up being corrupted by television, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is one who does not. His vision is pure. And he speaks the truth: "... television is an ... amusement park ... a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of ... story tellers ... jugglers, sideshow freaks ... and football players ... You're never going to get any truth from us (television) ... We lie like hell ... We deal in illusions, none of it is true. But you people ... believe the illusions ... You do whatever the tube tells you ... you even think like the tube". Worse yet, people elect their leaders based on how they look and sound, and how their words are interpreted by boob tube "pundits".
"Network" is a film wherein thematic import is conveyed almost entirely through dialogue. Some of the dialogue devolves into speechifying, which may come across to viewers as preachy. Still, the film's message was highly prophetic. Except for the film's climax, everything predicted in this film has already happened. And credit should go to script writer Paddy Chayefsky for his futuristic vision.
Some parts of the film seem superfluous in retrospect, like the romance between two main characters. But the film has a sense of realism, helped along by the use of technical jargon and a general absence of background music. The film's technical elements, including direction, casting, acting, editing, and cinematography, are fine.
As social commentary, "Network" is one of the best films ever made, despite a dated, time-bound, story. That "there are no nations, only currency" is becoming increasingly obvious, and as Ned Beatty's arrogant character explains in a frighteningly ominous tone: "The world is a business, Mr. Beale".
- Jul 28, 2009